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People who make a difference: Tyrone Powell

Mentor, advisory board member, volunteer, business owner – Junior Achievement, Shoreline Credit Union, Kimberly School District, UNext

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January 12, 2023

GREEN BAY – Born and raised in France under the guidance of his professional basketball player father, Tyrone Powell – the founder of UNext – said he always thought his life would follow a similar path as his dad’s – playing ball.

“I played basketball my whole life,” he said.

Even when his family relocated from France to the Wauwatosa area – where his dad was from – and even into college, basketball, Powell said, was still a large part of his life.

“Growing up in a basketball atmosphere, that’s all I wanted to do,” he said. “So I moved to Wauwatosa West in high school and I played basketball for them. Then I came to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) in September of 2017, and I was a walk-on for the basketball team at UWGB as well.”

Like many kids, Powell said he had dreams of playing in the NBA.

However, after realizing his love of basketball wasn’t enough to send him to the next level, Powell said he began reevaluating what was next.

And with that, he said, came an increased focus on his studies.

Though starting college as a computer science major, Powell said he wasn’t completely sure if it was the career he wanted to pursue.

“When I was a computer science major, I wanted to get connected to professionals, but outside of an internship or employment, because coming in as a freshman, it is hard to get an internship or an employment, especially in computer sciences,” he said.

Powell said it took him seven months to get connected with a shadowing opportunity.

“(During that time), that’s when I realized computer science was not for me,” he said. “I didn’t think it was as isolated as it actually was. I then switched my major to marketing first and then added entrepreneurship.”

Tyrone Powell said he started UNext as more of a project than a business. Submitted Photo

Powell said he realized quickly the obstacles he was running into finding volunteer or shadow opportunities in his major of study, weren’t something just he was struggling with.

“I realized a lot of students were not confident in their major of interest,” he said. “When I talked to a lot of my friends about the shadowing opportunity I had, they were like, ‘Oh, this is so cool. How did you get it?.’ Some of them were juniors and seniors.”

It was then, Powell said, his wheels started turning and the pieces of UNext began taking shape.

“I started thinking about it as a project at first, not so much a business,” he said. “Then, I started talking to more and more students, recent grads, long-term grads about their experiences. I then started talking to career services about it, and I saw there was a huge problem and a huge disconnect. And that’s when the first idea of UNext came to us.”

Powell said the volunteering and shadowing opportunities have since expanded to internship and employment opportunities as well as partnerships with universities – to engage students early in their learning journeys.

“We know we need to help students as soon as they enter school,” he said.

Satisfaction of helping others
Powell said as UNext grows both in services and reach, knowing he is helping students in similar positions he was in gives him great joy.

“Hearing the positive feedback means a lot,” he said. “It gives me the motivation to keep going because we’re solving a huge problem that will affect so many people’s lives – so many people’s business, so many people’s careers, universities – we’re solving such a unique problem that has been around for so long and it gets me excited.”

Powell said for him, the most rewarding part about starting UNext is being able to help students.

“Growing up, I was always told, ‘go to college,’ and I got to college, and I was so underwhelmed by the lack of resources I thought I would get that I didn’t have,” he said. “So, being a part of that engagement with students is amazing.”

Growing up on two different continents, in two different countries and in multiple different cultures, Powell said he appreciates the differences in each company’s culture – something he said he didn’t understand until he started UNext.

“That was cool to explore and understand,” he said. “And then being able to help them in their engagement, helping them with students, helping them make connections.”

Through his work with UNext, Powell said he has been able to show businesses the benefits of having students volunteer or shadow within their companies.

Tyrone Powell, right, said he’s humbled to be able to help other students get engaged in their field of study as early as possible in their career journey. Submitted Photo

“Shadowing opportunities have a great benefit for recruiting because it enables the employer to feel familiar with the candidate, making sure they love the culture and understand the culture because it’s usually overlooked by college students,” he said. “And from there, they can make a better choice to always have who would be a good fit for their organization or not.”

Though Powell has ambitions to grow UNext statewide, nationwide and even internationally – at the end of the day, he said his goal is to help reduce the stress and anxiety college students experience as they embark on their career journeys.

“If we see a decrease in all of those numbers that correlates with our growth, that would be the ultimate reward,” he said. “However, I would rather decrease those numbers than grow super fast all throughout the country, if we’re not going to impact that many individuals.”

Community-orientated upbringing
Living in small or moderate-sized communities for much of his life, Powell said he has always been community-oriented.

“I loved to see communities thrive,” he said. “Growing up, I was so involved in the community, helping if I could at my school, in my town – that involvement drives me.”

At just 23 years old, Powell said being able to be involved in the growing entrepreneurial community of Greater Green Bay continues to fuel his drive to be a part of it.?

“Since I’ve been in Green Bay, and I saw the rise of business events, entrepreneurship, TitletownTech, all of those efforts and seeing the rise of that over the past five to six years – that’s music to my ears,” he said. “I’m 23 years old. I just graduated from college. So, I feel like my resume isn’t as complete as a lot of entrepreneurs and professionals – but I love to know I’m involved in that and I’m helping with all of those efforts.”

Through his work with Junior Achievement, Powell said he is able to help the next generation build professional skills.

“So, how to have a job interview, how to fill out a resume, how to present yourself and a lot of financial advising skills,” he said.

Powell said he began working with Junior Achievement after being approached by Adam Sutter, the regional director of Northeast Region, at an event he was speaking at.

“He saw the help we do with students and he (shared with me) they do similar things for high school students,” he said.
Powell said he also serves on the Shoreline Credit Union and the Young Professionals Alliance for Bellin advisory boards.

He said he also spends time mentoring business students in the Kimberly Area School District.

“I volunteer in classrooms, I mentor business owners who are just starting, and I speak in student organizations all the time – I just love to get involved,” he said.

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